Sunday, June 04, 2006

From Paradise to the Abyss

The 47 Van Ness bus is often host to people who seem to be carting everything they own with them as they take short trips from homeless shelters to wherever they hang out during the day.

San Francisco crazy people often have unexpected style, however, and a good example is the Asian bag lady above who was moving all her worldly possessions in a bizarrely elegant way.

Everything was rolled up and strapped into sheaths of fabric which wrapped around her body.

She looked a bit like a dirty, derelict version of an Issey Miyake runway model.

After the bus ride, I went to Davies Symphony Hall for the last regular symphony season concert of the year.

Next week a mini-festival opens called "Romantic Visions: From Paradise to the Abyss" with the venerable conductor James Conlon leading huge forces in Verdi's "Requiem," Lizst's "Dante Symphony," and a Zemlinsky opera, among other big, romantic pieces.

Last night's concert, conducted by Michael Tilson-Thomas, could have been part of the festival itself since they were performing the Big Daddy of Romantic Paradise Visions, namely Mahler's Eighth Symphony with its monster orchestra, chorus, children's choruses, seven soloists, and even an extra group of brass who joined the group for the final trip to Heaven.

I had never heard the piece live before, partly because it had always seemed boring on disc over the years.

Though it was great to hear the full dynamic range of the "Symphony of a Thousand," the two-movement, ninety-minute piece sounded bloated to me, as if Mahler was just recycling all his greatest hits from the "Resurrection" Symphony onwards.

The performers were fine and obviously playing and singing with fervor, and the choruses were all superb.

The only soloist who stood out was Elza van den Heever, a Merola student at the San Francisco Opera across the street, partly because her voice is huge and easily rode over the massed forces.

The fact that she's my next door neighbor (that's her doppelganger friend above) just made her triumph that much more amusing.


Houston said...

I had a conflict between Friday night's performance and Tales of Hoffman as performed by the Pocket Opera over at the Gould theater at the Palace. I chose Tales of Hoffman, sung in English. My Parisian friend looked to me like something was wrong and exclaimed that she had never heard it sang in any language other than French. Supertitles would have helped both of us.

Hey! I'm going to throw a party in July and I very much want you to be there. Plan on it.

cedichou said...

You did not like Stephanie? I found her absolutely amazing. Man, I was at that same concert, and then again at the same Joan of Arc opera performance as you were. We're in such sync I guess I'll see you at the requiem or at figaro.

sfmike said...

Dear Houston: I quite look forward to your fiesta.

Dear Ced: Actually, I'm going to be IN "Figaro" as a supernumerary lackey. Watch out for the San Francisco debut of Peter Mattei playing the count. He's authentically sexy and the voice is just amazingly beautiful.

And I'm going to the final Sunday afternoon Verdi "Requiem." Are we still on the same concert-going page?